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Reverend Parris, Judge Hathorne, Reverend Hale, and Deputy Danforth
Although each of these characters plays an independent role, together they serve as the representative spectrum of the political and religious order in Salem. Parris and Hale are caretakers of the soul, while Hathorne and Danforth embody the law. Together, however, all four only serve to achieve destruction of that which they are supposed to uphold. With the exception of Hale, they are more character types than characters, serving as symbolic representatives of the corrupted social order.
Hathorne is the least fleshed out of the four. While he does not seem motivated by political gain, he is the picture of the stern, self-satisfied official for whom the truth is less important than the appearance of justice and the proper showing of respect. It is he who is most keenly insulted by any suggestion that the accused may be innocent and the accusers may be perjurers.
In contrast, Danforth is somewhat open-minded; but his belief in his own rightness and righteousness renders him incapable of seeing the truth. By the end of the play, he is just as willing to pervert justice as Parris, suggesting that it would be somehow unjust to those who were executed if others were allowed to go free, even if they might be innocent.
Parris is easily the most villainous, concerned more with temporal power than serving God. He is guilty of helping to create the appearance of witchcraft where little or none exists. Instead of leading his people toward goodness, he leads them toward destruction.
Reverend Hale is the most complex of the four characters. He is initially skeptical of the talk of witchcraft, but is soon caught up in the hysteria. At then end of the play, as a member of the court, he signs numerous death warrants. His essential fair-mindedness, however, enables him to see that things have gotten out of hand. He recognizes that Proctor is speaking the truth when he accuses Abigail of making false accusations, and he understands the motivation that leads Elizabeth to lie to protect John. Guilty over his role in convicting so many innocent people, he tries to stop the proceedings, but it is too late. Like Proctor, he becomes a witness to destruction that he could have prevented.